Monday, April 13, 2009



Here are some recent-ish movies I’ve seen and my quick take on ‘em….


I enjoyed this film, which I’d put up there with FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL. I think I enjoyed it better than FORGETTING. Paul Rudd was fun but I enjoyed the Jason Segel character the most. It’s not like either of these films was outright hilarious, but they had great moments and they’re overall likable, unlike the overrated SUPERBAD or PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, which does not get hilarious until a half-hour in (when the two dudes go to Red’s place and that fracas breaks out).
By the way, how dead was PINEAPPLE until that scene? And how did they miss making a joke at the end about getting an ultimate contact high after that pot factory blows up? Whoever is making these Jason Segel vehicles is effectively out-Apatowing Apatow!


I saw the first half of it over the weekend. Admittedly, I was sleepy. It was not as bad as I thought it would be. That said, I’m not sure I will weep if I don’t get to see the second hour. It’s kind of like a very good version of a CW soap with a supernatural twist. The flight of fancy scene between Edward the vampire and Bella superficially reminded me of a new generational twist on the Superman and Lois flight through Metropolis. It’s pretty good for what it is. Aw, what the hell, I’ll try to see the second part ASAP!


Oddly enough, both of these Academy Award nominees are about a televised tate-a-tete between a crafty, manipulative old pro and the young brash but insecure protagonist who goes up against the ol’ Great White shark.

Contrary to most opinions I’ve read and heard, I thought SLUMDOG was okay but not Oscar-worthy. It was nicely directed and edited, and, yes, the soundtrack was catchy. But this was not a musical, it was a supposed drama, and to have the big Bollywood dance number come hot on the heels of the resolution (not even post-credits) was a bad move. In fact, it was a bad move to include this as part of the movie at all (maybe as a DVD bonus feature) as it was irrelevant and probably culturally condescending on Irishman director Danny Boyle’s part. I think many people succumbed to the exotic factor of the movie. I wonder if people in India would find this film as interesting. This could have also taken place in other poor countries with kidnapping problems, such as Mexico (or parts of the U.S.!!). In other words, if you blowtorch off the exotic factor, I’m not sure how great this movie is (which hinges on the dated “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” game show as its central conceit).

I much preferred FROST/NIXON, which is the first Ron Howard film I’ve enjoyed since SPLASH (although I’ve skipped many of Howard’s films because I don’t like the sentimental, Oscar-bait qualities of his films). This one almost avoided Howard’s annoying filmmaking tics (a superfluous scene following the Frost/Nixon debates dots the I’s and crosses the T’s, as if we had not understood the story that had preceded it). Other than that, a fine film. And as much as I enjoyed Frank Langella’s interpretation of President Nixon, I thought Michael Sheen’s performance as David Frost was the film’s high point, as Sheen took a shallow man and gave him many layers of depths. We really got a sense of Frost’s insecurities and self-doubt as even his own team does not believe he can pull off the interview with Nixon. Howard should get a cookie for effectively opening up Peter Morgan’s play into a movie and not making the whole thing feel stage-y. This and stuff like the excellent SHATTERED GLASS by Billy Ray from 2003 (perhaps the best journalism movie I’ve ever seen, and I lump ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN in that category) are the closest (it appears) we’re going to get these days to Hollywood’s early/mid-1970s golden era of interesting filmmaking, back when filmmakers such as Sam Peckinpah, Hal Ashby, Alan J. Pakula and others were at the height of their powers.


James Baker said...

I liked Slumdog and I did think it was Oscar worthy but only because it was slim pickings this year... There just weren't many GREAT films in 09..

but i agree that it wouldn't have been Oscar worthy if it had come out a year or two ago.

And I liked the dance number. I though of it as an end-title sequence...

Greenblatt the Great! said...

You're right, Baker, 2009 was slim pickins.

I guess if I were Danny Boyle, I would've stuck that dance number after the credits, to give it some distance from the ending of the movie, which it comes so soon after. Or stick it on the DVD as a bonus scene. I think as is, it kind of undermines the story's climax. I know what they were trying to do, I'm just not sure how much I appreciated where it was placed. Oh, well.

Perhaps at the end of FROST/NIXON, as soon as Frost one-ups Nixon, Frost and Nixon should've stood up, thrown down some cardboard, and breakdanced! Maybe every movie can use a post-climax dance number!

James Baker said...

Now your're talking! I wanna see a rave-dance at the end of the new Star Trek!